The Autechre title influenced Belgium duo Suumhow are back on n5MD for their second album, the nicely titled “Secuund” a mere fourteen months on from their debut “Crash_Reports”.
“Secuund is the sophomore album from Belgium experimental electronix duo Suumhow. This album, the follow-up to last year’s debut offering from Suumhow called “Crash_Reports” , finds the pair doubling down on their blisteringly crunchy beat and warm , humanistic melodies. While the beat work on the album’s opening track can lean towards the aggressive, making things feel as if all is about to teeter out of control, the thoughtful melodic touches in the synths keep the structure elastically tethered. Exceptions to that rule of thumb exist on “Secuund” with warm ambient track “West Bend”, the BOC-esque “Bora Bora”, and the durable onward animation of “Cabin”. Such diversity in Suumhow’s experimentation makes “Secuund” an excellent listen for fans of late 90’s, early ought IDM, glitch and ambient.”
It’s interesting when you check out an album using your memory to remember their music rather than revisiting the previous work. When it came to this album I was taken back by the amount of Ambience and synth work and it made me think that maybe this was a recent development. Then I went back and perused “Crash_ Reports” which I had the following to say about it when it came out last year: “Crash_Reports” is one best enjoyed on a set of headphones to capture all the subtleties, nuances and textures. It harkens back to a time when IDM was interesting, exciting and innovative, and follows this progression.There is a care taken to construct a cavernous, multifaceted sound that reveals more as you delve deeper into the album. If your musical taste various from the sweet melodies to a slice of dirty, gritty music, then “Crash_Reports” will not disappoint.” The interesting thing was that once I went back, I realised that these elements that I had thought were more of a progression were already there, but on “Secuund” they are so pronounced are much more vibrant. Maybe the difference is shown through the artwork, swapping the black and white theme of the debut to the more colourful cover of the follow up, but whatever the case may be, the music on “Secuund” is rich, vibrant, full of depth and finds the duo taking the elements that worked the first time ’round and expanding on them.
As the press release noted, the opener “Muuscl” could lead you to false conclusions. Essentially a spluttering, decaying opening mixing scattershot electronics, mutilated field recordings of dialogue, it makes may for a moody synth line that runs through the core of the track while the percussion and attendant electronics move about in every direction, crashing, falling off, spluttering to a stop and also cascading forward. Another melodic element arrives taking the piece into a juxtaposition of sound clashing broken rhythms with a playful electronic melody that in a way hints at the duos oeuvre.
“Till’nif” follows in a similar sort of construction of the battered broken beats versus sublime melodies but evolves the template to offer moments of respite and an emphasis on the synths. The structure of the beats, dare I say has a swing or maybe even a certain funkiness to (abstract funkiness of course) that works with ambience synth sections and their occasional Vladislav Delay like bass thumps. The track further demonstrates that the duo work well with pairing disparate elements that work together and that the focus is not entirely on the way the beats twist and warp.
“West Bend” is an inspired decision in the track listing as it gives the listener a chance to lean back from the respite. It helps in showing the undercurrents of the music that have appeared on the two previous tracks and bringing them front an centre. It also demonstrates what the music is like when the beats are essentially stripped from the music which reveals a bit more depth and textures that may not have been that obvious before. Needless to say this is not a sugary sweet as there still is a bit of a rough edge with some static soaking going on and the tone of the piece fluctuating in the second half of the track.
“Bora Bora” the Boards Of Canada comparisons are on the mark here. Opening with a swoon the track features soft ambient toned electronica with a more conventional swinging beat with pulses of ambience mixed in with the multiple layers of synth work that makes up the bed of sound. Disembodied voices make there way through the track, never truly being obvious to what they are saying. The piece moves through familiar phrases with a lazy, and hazy wooziness which is intoxicating and doesn’t wear out it’s welcome.
“Cabin” the electronics underneath this track also remind me of BOC when they go into a more moodier direction, but this track is pure Suumhow. The electronics are what make this track as there is a section which has the ferocity and off-kilter feel that you would traditionally ascribe to the their beats. In this case the beats almost seam tame in comparison. The track also shows that patient build up that track goes on as the beats only really kick in around the one minute mark and the electronics then take over just after the halfway mark with an almost jungle like feel coming through the high hats.
“56” could be an outtake from “Crash_Reports” as it has that stark sort of feel that came across on tracks like “Aywaille” or “Brus L”. Largely moving away from the melody that has been centre of the previous five tracks, the duo instead investigate the detritus of beats and muted electronic tones. The broken and old equipment that inspires them is represented in this track as the piece sputters, kicks and jolts, while the muted electronics have a distant and near drone appearance to them which takes the piece into different sonic territories than the rest of the album.
“Vapor” leaves me scratching my head on how to describe a track like this. Industrial heavy beats, warped synths that sound like they been run over and then some for good measure. The rhythms feels so disjointed its as if a robot is stumbling and careering around on one leg and a stump. If there ever a definite sort of rhythm piece to demonstrate Suumhow, then it could be this. A noticeable feature about this track (and the others, but I’ll use this one as the best example) is the sound. A piece like this could easily be audio mush, but the recording and mastering allow for separation which highlight the melodies and the individual elements that make up the multi layered pieces and reveal the kaleidoscope of sounds that Suumhow produce.
Suumhow end the album with the epic “Nachta”, skipping snatches of sound make up a flickering rhythm that moves it’s shapes while expanding as the track progresses form the underlying basis for a tranquil set of dreamy synth ambience. Naturally with more time and space Suumhow are able to move through more territory and they balance the track rather nicely, even possibly bringing both the synth work and beats together as closely as possible. Usually there is a juxtaposition of sound and styles and pairing the intensity back on the beats side of things, brings the elements closer together and shows a subtlety to their material.
“Secuund” has been on heavy rotation this week just past at DAF HQ for the obvious reason that it is just good. The construction of the pieces extends on their groundwork of the debut and makes for an engaging and enjoyable multifaceted listen that should appeal to most IDM/Electronica and Ambient fans, especially those that like a bit more textural crunch to their music. “Secuund” is available on LP, CD and Digital (with the limited Mini Disc sold out).